Then Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me, but let me bother you this one last time. If you find ten good people there, what will you do?” The Lord said, “If I find ten good people in the city, I will not destroy it.” The Lord finished speaking to Abraham and left. Then Abraham went back home. Genesis18:32-33ERV
Abraham’s negotiations with God didn’t end well for the patriarch. He had been hoping to run God down to one, therefore saving Sodom and Gomorrah from disaster. Abraham must have thought he was onto a good thing, after all he started this ‘deal’ with God at fifty good people and got all the way down to ten! The arrogance that Abraham showed was breathtaking, and we can’t get our heads round it in our day and age. We wouldn’t try that today, would we? Our generation has more sense, right? A good Christian bargain with God? Never!
Wrong. Let’s think: As a parent, your shy child has a birthday party, so you pray for all her friends to come along although you know she is not the most popular girl in her class. You earnestly pray for 20 but you need to drop the number to a more realistic 10. You need £500 for your two teenagers to have a church camp holiday, but you pray again and settle for £100 because that will do. Our local church needs 10 new members and you pray accordingly, but after a while you settle for 5 because that will do. Or lastly, we desperately need several folks from church to visit the sick or make a phone call, but when God doesn’t seem to respond, we settle for just a few because that might do. In fact, we will take anyone, that’s any one person who cares enough to show Christian love and interest for that person who hasn’t made it out for some weeks, now that would be a start. Lord, are you listening?
So, yes we do bargain with God, and we do it often. More often than not, we set the bar at the level we think would hopefully be possible to satisfy our own desires, and not God’s plan. But God is gracious and will answer even our downscaled request. The real problem (at least for me) is when we pray for some friends to come, but no one does. Not a reduced number as in the case with Abraham, but none. Nada. Zilch. Nihil. But wait, the story isn’t over yet because some good people did respond to the prayer, and in the number you had initially hoped for, so what’s the problem? Simply put, God answered through the unexpected arrival and visits (plural for good measure) of friends from another body of believers whom you now respect even more than you did before. Now what do you do? Stay in the same uncaring group, or recognise that God chose to use that other prayer sensitive, caring church group, recognising where the answer to prayer finally came from, and determine to experience more of their church fellowship? Tough call! Or is it??